Satya Hariharan talks about political and physical maps the same way some kids his age talk about video games.
He has an ease and familiarity with the subject matter that few adults could master.
That’s probably why Hariharan, a Skyridge Middle School seventh-grader, has twice won the school-wide Geography Bee.
As a sixth-grader, Hariharan made the state level Bee, but missed out on going to nationals.
This year, he has his eye on the prize.
“Hopefully I’ll win state and place in the top 10 at nationals,” Hariharan said.
He first discovered a passion for maps when he was in third-grade at Dorothy Fox Elementary. His mom, Titu, helped teach a class.
“I liked it right away,” Hariharan said.
In fourth-grade, he won his school wide Geography Bee.
Then when he entered Skyridge Middle School last year, Hariharan won the school-wide contest, and placed in the top 20 at state.
There are several levels students must go through before they even get the opportunity to become school champions: The first several rounds are held in individual classrooms. Teachers ask multiple choice questions and the top two students in each class take a written quiz. From there, the top 10 participate in a school wide, multiple choice and written Bee. The winner continues on to the state level.
Hariharan prepares for the contest year round, studying three to four hours a week. He even has a coach who works with him every month.
“I also like to use Google Earth and look at major landmarks,” he said. “I also study five states a week and it helps me retain the information. Then I’ll start working on one continent at a time. Then I go back periodically and review.”
His Washington State History teacher Gail Cooper said Hariharan is a very unique student.
“I am deeply impressed with his dedication,” she said. “This subject is not really popular in American culture. Yet, geography dictates the landscape of any country. If you understand the geography of it, you can understand the issues that go along with it.”
Cooper added that a knowledge of geography deeply impacts one’s understanding of the world.
“This knowledge makes Satya a global thinker because he can put his place in the world in context with the rest of it,” she said.
If Hariharan wins the state Bee, the National Geographic Society will provide an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for him and a teacher to participate in the Bee national championship rounds on May 24 and 25.
The first-place national winner will receive a $25,000 college scholarship, a lifetime membership in the Society, and a trip to the Galapagos Islands, courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic. “Jeopardy!” host Alex Trebek will moderate the national finals on May 25.